RHONA H is a traditional boat built in 1942 by Ned Jack in Launceston Tasmania. In 2022 she celebrated her 80th anniversary, beginning as a fishing vessel before changing to operate as a commercial sailing and charter vessel in 1988.
”Ned” Jack built RHONA H at his Trevallyn, Launceston shipyard using Huon pine carvel planking with celery top pine for the decks. He was one of the premier builders in northern Tasmania and built many of the fishing craft for the region. The 52ft fishing vessel was built for Frier Youl of Symmons Plains and rigged as a gaff topsail ketch It was called JESSE.
It was sold in about 1950 to well-known Stanley fisherman, Max Hardy, who renamed it RHONA H after his wife, and fished with it for crayfish, couta and shark in Bass Strait and off the West Coast. Max borrowed £4,000 to buy the vessel. “It seemed to us to be all the money in the world then. It was a battle, but we worked away at our goal, and ended up having her for 26 years”, says Max. “She was a beautiful boat, and what made it good for my wife Rhona and me was that we were the first to fish at Sandy Cape with a decent boat. We learnt to catch crayfish there before they ever knew there were crayfish off the continental shelf. But I was getting that many beltings coming back from Sandy Cape to Stanley, that I decided to set up a proper slipway and fishing shack at Temma, and then built the Jennifer Hardy especially to fit into the harbour.”
RHONA H used to trade between Stanley and Queenscliff in Victoria, taking fish one way and stores the other. It has been said that it was the last remaining trading ketch still operating commercially in Tasmania. While it was a commercial fishing boat it set the current record for catching the most ‘couta by hand in one day’ – four and a half tons.
RHONA H was converted in 1988 for Tasmanian chartering and re-rigged as an auxiliary gaff ketch with jib headed topsails with this the work being done by Rob “Rigger” Morton who was brought over from New Zealand. In 1998 she sailed from Sydney to Hobart with the Tall Ships.
Julie Porter and Charles Burns established Heritage Sailing Tasmania in 2014 as a fully Not for Profit organisation with all volunteer crew to operate the SV Rhona H.
The history is as important as sailing. We have six sails, including the topsails and we LOVE to set them all as often as possible; you’ll often see us sailing under the Tasman Bridge with them all set!
During the anniversary year, as well as celebrating her birthday with some of the past owners families and Royal Hobart Regatta patrons, we were also delighted to receive the Tall Ships Australia and New Zealand Billy Can Award at the Regatta, presented by Cpt Sarah Parry OAM and Cpt Ian Kuhn. It was announced in 2021 for outstanding achievement in youth development and sail training but the presentation delayed due to COVID.